Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is an ideal cloud use case. DRaaS uses a cloud provider’s resources and allocates them on-demand to an organization in the midst of a disaster. With DRaaS, organizations no longer need to worry about setting up a dedicated disaster recovery site or trying to design existing locations to be disaster recovery targets for primary locations. Organizations also don’t need to worry about equipping those sites for a potential disaster. The cloud provider can provide the computing needed to start applications within moments of a disaster declaration. DRaaS isn’t perfect, however, and each provider differs in its capabilities. IT planners need to ask precise questions to make sure the DRaaS provider can meet all of the organization’s needs.
For an organization to create a DRaaS solution, IT needs software to protect data and replicate that data to another data center. The secondary data center needs to provide storage for the protected copies of data, and it needs to provide computing power for when the organization needs to test or declare a disaster. Vendors can bundle these components as a single solution, or the organization may seek to add one of the components to their existing capabilities.
Will the DRaaS Solution Require Switching?
The first question to ask is if the DRaaS solution provider’s solution requires the organization to switch data protection applications. If, for example, IT uses Veeam as their data protection solution of choice, will the move to DRaaS require installing a new application with which the backup team is unfamiliar? Switching costs are more significant than just the software transfer costs. If the organization switches software, IT needs to learn that software and make sure it has all the same capabilities as the incumbent solution.
In addition to software, most organizations have a significant investment in on-premises data protection hardware like backup appliances with deduplication and compression. Some even have higher performance systems to aid in processes like instant recovery. Also, since most failures are not full-scale disasters, leveraging the existing hardware investment makes more sense than always counting on the cloud. The problem is that most DRaaS solutions not only require a switch of software but also require the organization to use that company’s appliance and its storage to store the on-premises copies of data.
Many DRaaS solutions are startups that leverage a cloud (public cloud) provider like Amazon. The software that these start-ups provide is new and isn’t as robust in all areas as software from more established vendors. It takes time for vendors to fully develop their data protection software to make sure it covers a wide variety of platforms and is fully vetted by actual use in the field.
Will the Cloud Provider Be There When I Need Them?
A DRaaS vendor has several methods available to go to market. First, it can try to do everything on its own, create the software and become a cloud provider, which means creating a data center and equipping it to support its customers. The second method is to specialize and only provide the software and leverage a public cloud provider for its “data center.” The third method is to leverage existing software solutions and provide the cloud data center to act as the DRaaS infrastructure.
The do-everything approach requires an expensive upfront cost, and vendors that take this approach generally seem to be struggling — converting customers to a new software solution, especially a software solution that is not only new to the organization but also new to the market. The do-everything approach has to cover the investment in data center infrastructure. It is essentially a build it, and they will come approach to the market.
The develop the software and leverage an existing public cloud provider approach, removes the risk for the vendor of investing in data center floor space and equipment. It still, however, has the risk of slow adoption by customers. Organizations may not like their backup solution, but they are often slow to switch to another backup solution. The solution has to be very compelling to get the organization to switch and while most organizations consider DRaaS an important capability they are reluctant to switch if that is the only gain from the switch.
The third method of leveraging existing software and providing the cloud data center is turning out to be the most viable. Organizations already exist with these capabilities, and the choices are more than just the big three public cloud providers. Global custom cloud providers and regional providers have been in business for decades providing various services to their clients. These providers have already made the infrastructure investment necessary to provide a DRaaS service with some of their other offerings. Enterprise backup software vendors have support for cloud-based backups and are continually improving their capabilities. Organizations can leverage their existing backup solution, or if they plan on switching, they can switch with the confidence of knowing the potential new solution is in use by thousands of organizations around the world.
Will The Cloud Charge Egress Fees?
One of the more appealing aspects of using the cloud for almost any type of service is the low upfront costs. However, there are hidden costs that IT planners need to be aware of and for which they must plan. The most significant hidden cost is the cost to pull data from the cloud, known as egress fees. While most cloud providers charge nothing to move data into the cloud, they charge a sometimes significant fee if the organization wants to move data back to their primary data center. In the case of cloud backup and DRaaS, it is essentially being charged extra for restores.
Many DRaaS vendors claim that the service gets around the egress fee challenge by instantiating the application in the cloud since no data needs to transfer back on-premises. The statement is valid as long as the organization never intends to rerun the application on-premises. The problem is the most organizations want to look at the cloud as a temporary area to execute applications like during a peak load or a disaster as is the case with DRaaS. The overwhelming majority of organizations want to transfer data back to the original data center and run the application on-premises, in their data center. As a result, they incur egress fees during on-premises transfers. Those fees, especially for a full data center recovery, are expensive and the data transfers are time-consuming.
How Will I Get Back to My Primary Data Center?
Egress fees are just one aspect of the DRaaS recovery challenge. While DRaaS does help organizations recover quickly, those recoveries are cloud-based. As mentioned above, most organizations want to move applications back on-premises when the disaster has passed, and the data center is ready to return to operation. Most public cloud providers have limited abilities in aiding organizations in quickly recovering the original data center.
Ideally, while their applications are running in the cloud, an organization wants the ability to bulk ship data back to the primary site for restoration. Once the restoration is complete, the organization then needs the ability to quickly sync the changes that occurred while the bulk transfer and restore was performed. Most public cloud providers cannot bulk ship data, and most of the new cloud DRaaS software solutions cannot leverage a bulk data import with a quick re-sync to the cloud. The only option for these organizations is a SLOW trickle of data back to the primary site which can take weeks. All the while the organization faces massive egress fees, and ongoing cost of computing for cloud recovered applications.
IT planners need to look for DRaaS solutions that are more than software companies trying to ride the coattails of a hot market. They need to make sure they look at the specific components of the service to make sure each meets their needs. Will all their platforms be protected? Will the solution require switching from existing software and hardware? Moreover, will the solution bury the organization in egress fees when it is most vulnerable, recovery from a disaster? Clarifying these questions is the important final step in selecting a DRaaS provider.